Sandstorm

Alan L. Lee

Forge Books

CHAPTER 1
 
 
Erica Janway reflected on her past because she had no future.
Forty-eight years of living, most of them good. A decent childhood. No serious health issues other than a brief fondness for alcohol. The usual amount of bad dates before the right one showed up. She was proud to have served her country with honor, no matter what some of the assholes at the CIA thought. She’d get a black star chiseled into the white face of Vermont marble on the Wall of Honor at Langley. Her husband, Paul, was the rock of her foundation and the main reason the drinking stopped. There was plenty more to reflect upon, but she was out of time.
The ominous figure clad in a dripping wetsuit stood motionless a few feet away in her Annapolis, Maryland, kitchen. She knew his presence was of her own doing. She hadn’t been able to keep her nose out of things. When they’d reassigned her from station chief in Moscow back to Langley, she’d been able to deal with the indignity only for so long before it had really pissed her off. Working from a desk, she’d searched daily for trouble, and once she’d stumbled upon it, resisting the temptation to dig further had been impossible. She’d wanted to take her suspicions up the ladder to her superiors but had lacked concrete proof. Plus, she could ill-afford another blemish on her record.
As a puddle formed on the tile, Erica figured he’d been watching her for a long time from the inlet off the Chesapeake Bay, the water’s edge just a chip shot away. She’d been on the deck for most of the evening and hadn’t heard or seen anything unusual.
Erica stared at the 9 mm pistol pointed at her chest. “If it’s money you want, I only have about sixty dollars in the house.” She was trying to buy time. She knew he wasn’t here for money. Common criminals didn’t walk around with silenced weapons. She coyly eased toward the knife holder on the counter.
The intruder, of course, recognized what she was trying to do. He almost wanted to give her a fighting chance. While watching from the water, he’d discovered there was something playfully amusing about her. She hardly came across as the cold-hearted threat she was portrayed to be. But he’d never been given a reason not to trust his handler’s orders.
He focused his weapon squarely on Erica’s heart as she stood next to the knife holder. She didn’t bother to make the attempt, knowing it was futile. She prepared herself as best she could. There was nothing to say that would alter her predicament. The thought that she would not die in vain gave her a degree of comfort. She’d prepared a package to be sent in the event that something happened to her. They would have no way of knowing that.
She decided not to scream. There really was no point. The house was hidden away behind ample foliage down a path. One of the attractions about the property had been its privacy.
Erica closed her eyes, thinking of Paul. She heard the muffled thump as a bullet left the chamber and tore through her heart.
*   *   *
On his way out, Janway’s executioner paused to look at several notes she had scribbled on a notepad while sitting on the deck. As he read, he observed that some were pertinent to why he was here. In the lower right-hand corner, framed by subconscious doodling, were two letters firmly repeated a couple of times. They meant nothing to him, but as he tore the pages away, he decided he’d make sure “NM” was run through every database of Janway’s life. At this point, there could be no loose ends.


 
Copyright © 2013 by Alan L. Lee